Acting Defense CIO cautious about outsourcing

In order to make outsourcing work, military organizations should ensure that they retain in-house expertise, and they should carefully scrutinize their vendors' security plans, the armed service's top information technology official said Wednesday.

"We should make sure we don't just rush to outsource," because it's in vogue, said Linton Wells II, the Defense Department's acting chief information officer and assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence (ASD/C3I). He spoke at the Army Small Computer Program Status Review conference in Baltimore.

A retired Navy officer who assumed CIO duties in early April, Wells also oversees desktop outsourcing initiatives within the Navy Department and National Security Agency.

Late last year, Lockheed Martin Corp. negotiated a desktop outsourcing blanket purchasing agreement with the office of ASD/C3I. However, Wells said Pentagon officials halted the outsourcing initiative for a few months because the vendor that handles help desk calls for both classified and unclassified networks had not performed security checks for help desk personnel.

"We should proceed with caution," with outsourcing, Wells said.

Referring to a Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory study of commercial outsourcing initiatives, Wells said that successful outsourcing programs must retain systems expertise in-house. And that's what ASD/C3I officials, who are still in the initial planning phases for desktop outsourcing with Lockheed Martin, have tried to do, he said.

In many cases, outsourcing will not save organizations money, Wells said.

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